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Vol. 13, No. 29 Week of July 20, 2008
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Parker Drilling returns to Alaska

Joey Husband to head up Alaska unit for Houston-based firm

Eric Lidji

Petroleum News

With two major Alaska projects in the works, Parker Drilling Co. is planning a return to the state it left nearly a decade ago during leaner times for the oil industry.

The Houston-based drilling company with decades of history in Alaska said July 15 it is looking into opening an office in Alaska to support two drilling projects for BP, including a contract for what could be one of the most powerful rigs in the world to help develop the offshore Liberty prospect in federal waters off the North Slope.

A Petroleum News source said Parker is looking at space for a training center in Anchorage, but whether or not the company opens an Alaska office, Joey Husband will serve as the general manager of the Alaska business unit for Parker.

Husband began working for Parker in 2004, coming from Schlumberger, where he spent eight years working as a field engineer in Alaska early in his career. He is currently based out of company headquarters in Houston and the company isn’t sure whether or when he might come to Alaska.

“We haven’t made final arrangements yet,” said spokeswoman Rose Maltby.

Three rigs in the works

Because BP plans to develop Liberty from existing offshore facilities six miles to the west of the reservoir, Parker will play an important role in one of the most ambitious drilling projects in the history of oil development in Alaska.

BP first contracted with Parker on the project back in August 2006, hiring the company to start conceptual design work on a rig capable of drilling an ultra extended-reach well to hit underground targets as far as eight-miles out and two miles down.

With the project now ready to begin, Parker will build that huge rig in time for BP to start drilling around 2010. BP will own the rig once Parker finishes building it.

The Liberty contract follows news in May of a five-year contract with BP for Parker to build, deliver and operate two rigs for development drilling on the North Slope.

Parker around at the start

Those rigs will be the first in Alaska in nearly eight years to bear the Parker logo.

After winning a contract with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in the late 1960s, Parker came to Alaska to drill exceptionally large and deep holes to contain the blast from a nuclear test.

Despite the oddity of the job, Parker transitioned back into oil work soon after, bringing several of the earliest drilling rigs to Prudhoe Bay following its discovery in 1968.

Over the following three decades, Parker operated as many as 10 to 12 rigs in Alaska, both on the North Slope and in Cook Inlet, but during a stretch of low oil prices in the late 1990s, the company began scaling back its operations in the state.

Parker sent its local project manager, Chuck Sullivan, back to company headquarters in the Lower 48 in the fall of 1998.

As drilling rigs stopped across the North Slope the following spring, Parker stacked Rig 245, its last land-based rig in the United States. Rig 245 remained inactive for nearly two years until Parker sold it to Nabors Alaska Drilling Co. for $20 million in late 2000.

As the demand for drilling increased with rising oil prices in the middle of this decade, Parker began to expand its operations once again, taking technology from its days in Alaska and applying it to other parts of the world.

Earlier this year, Parker helped break drilling records by operating the 230-foot Yastreb rig for ExxonMobil at the Sakhalin-1 oil project along the east coast of Russia. The companies used the onshore rig to hit a target located nearly seven miles offshore.

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